T H E  N E T W O R K  O B S E R V E R

  VOLUME 1, NUMBER 12                                DECEMBER 1994


  This month: The Progress and Freedom Foundation
              How communities take hold of computer networking
              Qualitative market research


  Welcome to TNO 1(12).

  This month's issue is mostly taken up by a couple of articles
  from the editor.  The first of these discusses two new high-tech
  political organizations, the Progress and Freedom Foundation and
  the Wireless Opportunities Coalition.  Each organization provides
  us with a chance to think through the complicated interactions
  between communications technologies and styles of political

  Also in this month's issue is the text of a speech from the
  British Columbia Information Policy Conference in Vancouver
  earlier this month.  This is a fascinating group of librarians,
  academics, community activists, and others, all trying to put
  information policy into practice in their part of the world
  by building free community networks.  I took this occasion to
  gather some thoughts on the broad question of how a community
  takes hold of computer networking.  We probably can't make firm
  generalizations about this, at least yet, but we can at least
  list some questions to ask and set some basic orientations.  It
  helps to view computing as a community activity -- as something
  that people do together as groups or networks, within patterns of
  relationship that probably serve other purposes as well.  In any
  event, some of my thoughts here will be familiar to long-time
  readers of TNO, but other may not.

  This month's company offers qualitative market research services,
  and this month's follow-up offers the usual batch of pointers to
  interesting net phenomena.

  Starting with volume 2, TNO will start publishing irregularly
  rather than monthly.  TNO 2(1) will probably appear in January
  1995, but after that it'll just be a matter of when I have the
  energy and material to put a new issue together.


  The future of network politics.

  In the December 1994 issue of Wired (page 121) there appears
  an ad for something called The Progress and Freedom Foundation.
  Under the headline "Cyberspace: It's Nobody's Highway", this
  advertisement announces the availability of a "Magna Carta for
  the Knowledge Age".  Small type at the bottom informs us that
  this document ...

    ... emerged from an August 23-24 conference in Atlanta,
    Georgia.  Participants included Jerry Berman, Esther Dyson,
    John Gage, George Gilder, Jay Keyworth, Lewis Perelman,
    Michael Rothschild and Alvin Toffler.  Major support for the
    conference was provided by BELLSouth and the Competitive Long
    Distance Coalition.  Additional support was provided by Agorics
    Enterprises, Inc., AT&T, Cox Enterprises, J.L. Dearlove and
    Affiliates, Forbes, Scientific Atlanta, Video Tape Associates
    and Wired.  Creative Consulting and Ad Production by J.L.
    Dearlove & Affiliates, Chicago, IL.

  Regarding the Magna Carta itself, it provides the e-mail address
  PFF@aol.com and some phone numbers,

    or, if you must, cross your fingers and send POM to 1250 H St.
    NW, Suite 550 Washington, DC 20005.

  Listen to the language.  If you must?  It's as though they're
  trying to talk jive to ingratiate themselves with the kids on the
  street.  They don't even have a home page.

  So who are these folks?  The ad says that:

    The Progress & Freedom Foundation believes cyberspace is a
    frontier, not a government project.

  We can learn a little more by turning to journalistic accounts.
  For example, in the 12/12/94 Wall Street Journal's article on
  Republican plans for the Food and Drug Administration (page A16),
  we read the following:

    In September, Rep. [Newt] Gingrich [incoming Speaker of the
    House] told a biotechnology trade group that he was launching
    a project to design a replacement for the FDA.  Leading the
    effort is the Progress and Freedom Foundation, whose head,
    Jeffrey Eisenach, formerly ran Gopac, Mr. Gingrich's political
    action committee.  Without apology, Mr. Eisenach acknowledges
    that drug companies are financial contributors to the
    foundation, and notes that drug companies will be involved in
    the project.  And he dismisses suggestions that drug-company
    involvement could taint the results.  "So I should go to Ralph
    Nader and do it?" he says.  "That's silly".

  So the Progress and Freedom Foundation is active on more than
  just telecommunications issues.  But it is not just an industry
  lobbying organization.  In particular, the connection to Gopac is
  not at all coincidental.  The purpose of Gopac has been to train
  conservative Republican candidates in the particularly aggressive
  style of politicking that Mr. Gingrich pioneered during his early
  days in Congress, and the Progress and Freedom Foundation may
  contribute to a generalization of this model.

    [By 1994] "Newt World" was now far-flung, from GOPAC to the
    National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee; the
    Friends of Newt Gingrich campaign committee; a weekly TV show
    on the conservative cable TV network, National Empowerment
    Television, and a think tank called the Progress and Freedom

    Its messages were coordinated with talk-show hosts such as
    Rush Limbaugh and with Christian Coalition groups.  [...]

    "The goal of this project is simple", Jeffrey A. Eisenach,
    director of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, wrote in a
    fund-raising letter.  "To train, by April, 1996, 200,000-plus
    citizens into a model for replacing the welfare state and
    reforming our government."  (LA Times 12/19/94, page A31)

  What can we expect from this rising army?  Gopac's record
  provides some evidence.  Much has been written about the tactics
  that Gopac suggested to its candidates.  An article about Gopac
  leader Joe Gaylord (Wall Street Journal, 8 December 1994, page
  A18), for example, says:

    Mr. Gaylord is one of the brains behind Gopac ... .  [He]
    wrote its how-to textbook, which urges challengers to "go
    negative" early and "never back off".  They must sometimes
    ignore voters' main concerns because "important issues
    can be of limited value".  The book suggests looking for a
    "minor detail" to use against opponents, pointing to Willie
    Horton as a good example.  Though it says a positive proposal
    also can be helpful, it counsels candidates to consider the
    consequences: "Does it help, or at least not harm, efforts to
    raise money?"  Mr. Gingrich has called the book "absolutely

  Even more has been written about the most famous Gopac document,

    ... a memo by Gingrich called "Language, a Key Mechanism of
    Control", in which the then-House minority whip gave candidates
    a glossary of words, tested in focus groups, to sprinkle
    in their rhetoric and literature.  For example, it advised
    characterizing Democrats with such words as "decay, sick,
    pathetic, stagnation, corrupt, waste, traitors".  (LA Times,
    12/19/94, pages A31)

  In my view, though, the most significant feature of Newt World
  is not its language, which is certainly fascinating, or its
  association with industry, which is hardly surprising or novel,
  but rather its use of technology.  Mr. Gingrich is a pioneer in
  the use of new technologies to build a political movement.  I do
  have to hand it to him -- he has worked hard and he has a genius
  for political organizing.  Having observed in the early 1980's
  that candidates spend a lot of dead time on the road traveling
  around during campaigns, he hit upon the idea of sending them
  videos and other materials about campaigning.  This is what
  Gopac did.  As time went on, they generalized this model to
  include scheduled conference calls and video broadcasts in which
  Mr. Gingrich and others would provide campaigners with advice
  about messages and methods.

  How does this model scale to 200,000-plus people?  Well, at that
  point it starts to sound a lot like the information superhighway
  -- a technology for centralized broadcast of programs to a group
  that isn't the "mass audience" of conventional TV broadcasting
  but is distributed across the country.  More tailored programming
  could be distributed as well -- to particular geographical
  regions, to activists on particular issues, and so forth.  It's
  not a decentralized model like the Internet, but then it's not
  the political vision that normally goes with the Internet either.
  It's closer to the asymmetrical distribution model found in the
  plans of many cable and regional phone companies -- some of whom,
  you might recall, sponsored the Progress and Freedom Foundation's

  This is not to say that Newt Gingrich and company are engaged
  in a conspiracy against the Internet.  After all, Mr. Gingrich
  has made some encouraging statements about making Congressional
  materials available to citizens on the Internet, and this
  is certainly a good and laudable thing.  The situation and the
  participants' views are often complicated.  The point is that
  technologies are not neutral.  Technologies certainly do not
  determine how they will be used, but neither are they simply
  tools that can be used for any old purpose at all.  Rather,
  technologies and social forms evolve together, according to the
  affordances of the machinery and the forces of the social system.

  None of this coevolution goes simply or smoothly in practice, of
  course, nor is any of it inevitable.  As the Internet illustrates
  extremely well, machines frequently have uses that nobody ever
  thought of, and these can often be resources for people wishing
  to engage in genuine, bottom-up democracy.  The machines can't
  restore the health of our democracy, though -- we have to do that
  ourselves.  And in doing so, we need to be aware of the complex
  and ambiguous interactions between the workings of our machinery
  and the forms of our political life.

  In particular, we should not assume that the Internet's open
  and decentralized architecture necessarily makes it a force
  for democracy, or that it necessarily levels the field for
  all players.  The practice of politics on the Internet is
  increasingly complicated, with new kinds of players and new
  variations on the existing games.

  As a case study in these issues, let's consider an organization
  called the Wireless Opportunities Coalition.  The WOC has
  circulated an alert on the net seeking support for a certain
  position in a fairly arcane regulatory fight within the FCC
  over the rules in certain frequency bands for digital wireless
  communications.  The WOC's materials are also available on WWW:


  The basic idea of the WOC's arguments is that companies with very
  sensitive communications devices shouldn't be able to displace
  other users of certain frequencies, including low-power digital
  wireless communications used for educational purposes, for
  example in local community networking in areas that do not have
  high rates of telephone service.  This certainly sounds like a
  good cause, and it probably even *is* a good cause.

  But note that the Wireless Opportunities Coalition's Web site
  is a creation of a public relations firm called Issue Dynamics
  Inc, whose largest clients include Bell Atlantic and a lobbying
  alliance of the US regional phone companies.  (To be fair, they
  also include the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.)  I
  couldn't find this information by searching through the WOC web
  pages, but you can verify it easily enough by aiming your web
  client at the underlying index:


  As recently as December 9th this page was entitled "IDI Index";
  it is now, as of December 20th, called "Policy.Net".  Click on
  "Issue Dynamics", read down to the bottom, and click on the IDI
  logo, which will take you to:


  Why is it "idi.net" and not "idi.com"?  Never mind.  My point
  is not that these folks are evil or that they have no right to
  speak.  My point is that they are practicing public relations
  on the Internet.  In the future, I expect that ordinary citizens
  using the Internet will want to inform themselves about who's
  behind all of those slick web pages.

  Public relations and its place in society is a fascinating and
  important topic, and I encourage everyone to learn more about it.
  If you're interested, here is a brief reading list:

    Edward L. Bernays, The Engineering of Consent, Norman:
    University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.

    Bill Cantor, ed, Experts in Action: Inside Public Relations,
    New York: Longman, 1984.

    Oscar H. Gandy, Jr., Beyond Agenda Setting: Information
    Subsidies and Public Policy, Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1982.

    Jack A. Gottschalk, Crisis Response: Inside Stories on Managing
    Image Under Siege, Detroit: Visible Ink, 1993.

    James E. Grunig and Todd Hunt, Managing Public Relations, New
    York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.

    Elizabeth L. Toth and Robert L. Heath, eds, Rhetorical and
    Critical Approaches to Public Relations, Hillsdale, NJ:
    Erlbaum, 1992.

  Finally, let me close with a pertinent quote.  I should note that
  it pertains to situations slightly more extreme than the Wireless
  Opportunities Coalition, which at least mentions its industry
  membership.  Nonetheless, I do think that the author is correct
  in criticizing misleading representations by advocacy groups.

    "One practice which I believe should be eliminated is that of
    the so-called "paper front".  A client is advised to finance
    an "organization" to promote or fight for its cause under the
    guise of an independent and spontaneous movement.  This is
    a plain public deceit and fraud and of course is a technique
    developed with consummate skill and in great profusion by the
    Communists.  In a free country any interest with a cause has
    a right to present its case to the public, to inform and, if
    possible, to persuade to its heart's content.  But that right
    of free speech also carries the obligation that the source of
    it will be in the open for all to see.  Attempts to fool the
    public by making it believe an "organization" existing only
    on paper is really a vociferous group favoring this or that
    cause have helped to cast a shadow upon the business of public
    relations counseling.  No counsel who wants to preserve his own
    reputation will ever be a party to the issuance of any public
    statement by a client unless the source is clearly set forth.
    Obviously, when a client is involved in a public relations
    controversy, supporting statements are welcomed from every
    responsible source.  But such statements should be issued by
    real-live people or organizations and not phoneys."

  This quote is from the autobiography of John W. Hill ("The Making
  of a Public Relations Man", recently republished by NTC Business
  Books, pages 139-140), who founded one of the largest public
  relations firms, Hill and Knowlton.


  Building community networks.

  [This is an edited transcript of a speech I contributed to the
  British Columbia Information Policy Conference.]

  My assigned topic this morning is "Building Community Networks",
  and I want to start out with a bit of an apology, in that I have
  not myself built a community network, so that it feels futile for
  me to tell this audience, of all people, how to do that.  Instead
  I would like to offer something closer to my own expertise by
  placing the process of building community networks in some kind
  of social perspective.  Let me begin by distinguishing between
  two valid perspectives on community networking, the aerial view
  and the ground view.  When taking the ground view, as we usually
  do in practice, our question is, how can I best go about building
  my community network?  It is a normative question, oriented to
  action in concrete circumstances.

  When we are taking the aerial view, by contrast, our question is,
  how do communities take hold of computing and networking?  It is
  an empirical question, oriented to developing concepts and making
  certain kinds of social maps, and it posits "the community" as an
  active agent of a collective sort.  It is a problematic question,
  of course, because we have to figure out what a community is,
  what it means to speak of a community taking hold of something,
  how to maintain a consciousness simultaneously of the unitary
  action of a community and its often deeply divided daily reality,
  and so forth.  Nonetheless, I would like to devote the bulk of
  my remarks today to a very much provisional consideration of
  the aerial view on community networking.  I am well aware that
  communities differ and that my own understanding of the issues
  has evolved in the context of urban settings in my own country.
  The point of this type of inquiry is not to make generalizations,
  although it is hard to avoid making generalizations, but rather
  to offer some potentially useful concepts -- what I think of as
  a handy reference card or checklist that one might take into an
  analysis of any particular setting.  I invite you, as we go along
  here, to consider what I might be talking about within your own

  Before we begin, I would like to offer a brief anatomy of
  what we might call the democratic technology movement, which
  we might define as an increasingly global, politically diverse,
  loosely organized, heavily networked movement of grassroots
  activists who wish simultaneously to employ computer networking
  to support a range of democratic projects *and* to contest the
  future architectural and institutional development of the global
  information infrastructure precisely to ensure that opportunities
  for this kind of technologically mediated democratic organizing
  are preserved and expanded in the future.  At the risk of leaving
  many people out in my hurry to move along to more concrete
  issues, I would suggest analyzing this movement on three levels.

  On the first level is the concept, widespread both in the
  media and in the thinking of a remarkably broad range of
  social activists outside the computer-and-information world, of
  "equity of access to the information superhighway".  Though the
  widespread consciousness of this idea is a fine and remarkable
  thing, I think it's important for us to recognize how limited the
  notion of "access" is.  "Access" presupposes that the technology
  and its architecture are givens, that "access" to that commodity
  is scarce, and that the issue is one of an equitable distribution
  of that commodity.  This actually *was* the case for a long time
  with Plain Old Telephone Service, but it is not true any more.
  Things are more complicated now.  Many urgent issues concern the
  future shape of network architectures, and the notion of "access"
  does not do justice to the possibility and necessity of acting on
  these issues.  Bandwidth is cheap and getting cheaper, but a poor
  architecture or the erosion of common carrier principles might
  lock large segments of the population out of true participation
  in society.

  On the second level of analysis we find specific movements
  like the largely libertarian on-line community that is concerned
  with cryptography and other privacy issues, and the largely
  progressive and communitarian local and regional movements for
  community networking, educational networking, preservation and
  expansion of the social role of libraries, and so forth.  I find
  these movements wholly commendable, and I hope here to make my
  own small ideological contribution to their efforts to reach out
  and expand their social base.

  At the same time, I think it is worth distinguishing a
  third level of the democratic technology movement, namely the
  participatory design movement that began with a collaboration
  of labor unions and academics in Scandinavia, and that has
  spread to North America through the efforts of some people in
  industrial laboratories, notably Lucy Suchman at Xerox, and
  activists, notably Doug Schuler of Computer Professionals for
  Social Responsibility.  Participatory design asks us to expand
  our vision, focusing not just on choices about a computer or
  network architecture but also on the process through which
  such an architecture arises.  This focus on process is something
  that comes naturally to the community networking movement, given
  the considerable reflection and creativity involved in reaching
  out to various stakeholders and getting them on board, and
  participatory design would encourage us to deepen and systematize
  this reflection on process.

  As we move through these three levels of the democratic
  technology movement, we are challenged increasingly to understand
  how we might conceptualize computing as a collective activity --
  as something that communities and groups and networks of people
  do, not just individuals.  In doing so we should be aware of
  the many ideological constructions of computing as an individual
  activity.  These begin with the stereotype of the asocial
  computer nerd, but they extend much further.  As Sonia Jarvis
  points out, they are found in certain visions of the information
  superhighway, in which we can shop at home, work at home, vote
  at home, and just generally do everything at home.  This kind
  of technologically enabled agoraphobia is the antithesis of
  community and democracy, particularly when the architecture
  being envisioned is a top-down system in which "interactivity"
  is conceived wholly as button-pushing to purchase commodities,
  gamble, or participate in plebiscites.

  Individualistic conceptions of computing are found in even
  subtler places as well.  Although training and good user
  interfaces are certainly important, in my experience many
  arguments for these things are really, underneath, arguments for
  a one-person-one-computer view of computing.  As an alternative,
  I would argue that computing is almost always, as a matter of
  necessity, something that people do as part of extended social
  networks.  If all we see when we imagine computing is a person
  sitting alone in front of a terminal then we need to expand
  our vision and take an aerial view, asking the much larger and
  harder question of how communities take hold of computing and

  To begin with, any given community will most likely have several
  nuclei of interest in computer networking.  These nuclei might
  be computer professionals, librarians, retired people keeping
  in touch with their families -- anybody who has been exposed to
  the benefits of networking and wishes to take some initiative to
  secure these benefits for themselves or their group.  These folks
  will probably have a diversity of understandings of themselves,
  their communities, their goals, and the technology itself, and
  they will not automatically encounter one another or necessarily
  see themselves as having anything in common with one another.

  Computers, however, do their best to disrupt this picture of
  scattered participation.  Computers, after all, are complex
  and delicate machines.  While some people assert that mass
  participation in computing requires that computers be stripped
  down and idiot-proofed, another perspective is that the
  complexity of computers, or that complexity which is necessary
  and not just bad design, is a positive force for bringing people
  together into user groups, a form of collective action that has
  been little written about despite the dozens or hundreds of such
  groups to be found in most cities in North America and in many
  other places as well.  Many Macintosh user groups, for example,
  have hundreds or thousands of members.  These groups bring people
  together through a complex pattern of interests, including users
  seeking information and software for their own use, consultants
  maintaining their referral networks, other computer professionals
  keeping their knowledge up-to-date, vendors selling their wares,
  volunteer sysops trying to build communities on their bulletin
  boards, and so forth.  Underneath, though, the fuel that drives
  these groups is the immense rate of change in the technology.
  People must band together to keep up with the changes and to
  anticipate where things are going in the future, and the result
  is a complex sociology of knowledge that warrants our attention
  on several grounds.

  The aerial view of computing encourages us to take this analysis
  further by considering the distribution of computer knowledge
  through a community.  Let us consider an analogy between
  knowledge about computers and knowledge about cars.  Knowledge
  about cars really is community property.  Various degrees of
  automotive expertise are widely distributed in most communities,
  and it's a good thing, since expert knowledge is by its nature
  hard to evaluate and best obtained within a web of relationships
  of family or neighborhood or reputation.  This expert knowledge,
  of course, is not distributed equally.  As a cultural matter
  automotive knowledge, like computer knowledge, is heavily marked
  as a masculine domain, and the group settings within which this
  knowledge circulates -- auto clubs or computer clubs -- tend
  strongly to be homosocial in nature.

  Access to reliable auto knowledge is also conditioned by
  the structure of your social network, so that, as a rough
  generalization, working people whose social networks are
  structured by family and geography will tend to have better
  access to automotive knowledge than middle-class people whose
  social networks are structured more vocationally.

  The point here is that the growth of computer networking, like
  any other social movement, is going to be shaped by the existing
  structures of social networks in a community.  The civil rights
  movement in the US grew largely out of churches, as has the
  conservative evangelical movement more recently.  The Sierra
  Club's environmental activism grew out of that organization's
  nature hikes for families and singles and so forth.  And groups
  like Amnesty International operate heavily through paper mail,
  with many small local chapters, since their base is not otherwise
  organized by community or vocational ties.

  But computer networks also afford the creation of new forms of
  social connection among people, and I think we should view a wide
  variety of network-based activities in terms of their immersion
  in these networks of interrelationship.  Access to government
  information, for example, is usually of limited utility to
  isolated individuals unless those individuals are strongly
  motivated by a specific goal.  Computer networks extend and
  transform existing social networks, becoming integral parts
  of them rather than replacing them.  When the participants in
  a computer bulletin board decide to get their families together
  for a picnic, the result is a restoration of the normal order
  of things, namely computer networks as merely one among the many
  media through which people conduct their relationships.

  Computer networks have a tremendous capacity, then, to bring
  people together by extending the already diverse and complex ties
  that people have among themselves.  But the broad and diverse
  applicability of computer technology simultaneously makes it hard
  to help people incorporate the new technology into their lives.
  The functionality of computers is defined in very broad, abstract
  terms -- "communication", "information", and so forth.  But most
  people do not routinely think of themselves as communicating or
  using information.  Rather they think of themselves as putting
  together social events, looking for work, persuading the city
  council to pass an ordinance, settling the kids' fights, getting
  dinner on the table, and so forth -- activities bound up in a
  dense fabric of relationships and practical dilemmas, all of them
  defined more concretely than "communication" and "information".

  If an individual or group is going to incorporate new computing
  technologies into their lives -- assuming of course that this
  would actually be a beneficial thing for them to do -- then they
  are going to have to travel a long cognitive path.  Specifically,
  they are going to have to reconceptualize their own activities in
  terms that are commensurable with the concepts that underlie the
  the technologies.  They will have to see "looking for a job" as a
  matter of communication and information, and not just abstractly,
  but in terms of a real, practicable involvement in a system of
  human relationships -- computer clubs, nextdoor computer gurus,
  kids' school activities, professional networks, and so forth.
  Once they *do* make this transition, they are in a position to
  recognize some important commonalities with an enormous variety
  of other people who have come to place a personal importance on
  the future of computing and networking.  But this isn't going to
  happen automatically.

  How, then, do people learn about computing and networking -- that
  is to say, how do they become involved in the social organization
  of computing and networking?  What routes do they take?  No doubt
  many of them start with a general awareness of the discourses of
  information superhighways and equity of access.  They might also
  hear stories about people using computers and networks through
  their participation in various kinds of groups (computer-related
  or not).  They might hear the tales of computing and networking
  that their kids bring home from school, assuming that their kids'
  schools can afford such things, or their children's education
  might provide the impetus for a more active investigation of the
  issues.  The fact is, we don't know very much about the stories
  people hear about computing and networking -- the messages that
  shape their understandings of the roles that these technologies
  might play in their own lives.  Do these messages provide models
  for active and creative use of the technology, or do they point
  toward exciting but essentially passive processes of consumption?
  Do these messages portray computing as a collective activity or
  a solitary one?  As something associated with particular social
  groups or social values?  As settled and inevitable or as wide
  open to shaping by movements of ordinary people?  No doubt the
  messages will not be univocal; nor will they all be received with
  equal attention or simple credulity.

  An increasingly significant source of messages about networking
  is the advertising and public relations of commercial access
  providers such as America Online.  These access providers have
  long cultivated the press, for example by providing free accounts
  to journalists, and I suspect that a number of the television
  and newspaper stories I've been quoted in as an expert originated
  with story ideas from PR people for access providers.  Part of
  my suspicion originates in the close alignment between these
  stories' contents and the providers' marketing message, which is
  essentially that networking is now for ordinary people, and that
  ordinary people are having a good time talking about immediately
  accessible and interesting topics within the discussion groups
  of these services right now.  As media messages about technology
  go, this type of message is an improvement on many other genres
  of technology tales (mad scientists, gee-whiz counterintuitive
  gizmos, apocalyptic disaster, the inevitable march of progress,
  so complicated that only Einstein can figure it out, and so on).
  But we should pay attention to the subtexts of these stories
  nonetheless, and we should also tell some others of our own.

  This is where I'd like to descend from my 30,000-foot aerial view
  of community networking to the ground view of how we can help
  people get involved.  Central to the process, I want to suggest,
  are stories.  Talk to people in your community who are using
  computer networking.  Ask them how they got involved.  Listen to
  their stories.  Ask permission to tell their stories to others.
  Take their stories apart into pieces -- what messages about
  networking did they receive where?  What other messages might
  they have received?  Collect stories.  Collect stories that fit
  under particular headings -- stories about people who managed to
  get help with their computer problems, stories about people who
  reinvigorated their nonprofit organizations through the use of
  a bulletin board system, stories about people who brought their
  neighborhood closer together with networking, stories about
  people who called out for help on a network and got it, people
  who broke out of social isolation through networking, people who
  got involved in politics through networking, people who joined
  in a user group, people who served as networking evangelists in
  their particular social world, and -- especially -- people who
  made a difference in the technology itself through the force of
  their vision about how technology could be usefully brought into
  the lives of real people and real groups.  It's important to
  categorize the stories -- to name them in ways that help you to
  recognize when they're relevant, how they compare and contrast
  to other stories, what types of stories you haven't been hearing,
  what messages about networking and people the stories really
  convey, and what difference it makes to tell them.  Almost any
  categorization will do, so long as it makes you pay attention to
  the forms and uses of stories about networking.

  Telling the stories, of course, is the point.  Tell the stories
  to journalists and city council members.  Volunteer to speak in
  front of every organization and club in your community -- tell
  them the stories and invite them to get involved in community
  networking.  Keep telling the stories to like-minded people, and
  gather up their stories as well, since story-sharing is very much
  a collective activity.  Tell your stories on the net, and ask the
  people on the net to tell their own stories.  Ask the people on
  the net if they have any stories of a specific type.  ("We want
  to convince the city council to allocate a little money to get
  our bulletin board going, but they want to hear stories about
  what this has to do with their priority, namely regional economic
  development.  Does anybody have any stories about this?")

  Tell the stories in press releases.  Create newsworthy events
  that focus attention on information issues in your community.
  Hold a panel discussion on the topic, ideally in a meeting room
  at your local public library.  Get on the phone and find out
  who has ideas on the subject, and ideally who is doing something
  about them.  Include the major community groups and the Chamber
  of Commerce.  Send out a press release about the event to every
  publication within two hundred miles, especially the smaller
  newspapers.  To learn how to do this, get yourself a copy of a
  marvelously tacky book entitled "How to Make Yourself Famous" by
  Gloria Michels.  Being famous is a nuisance, of course, but it's
  the price of getting your issues out in front of your community.

  At one level this advice is common sense -- everybody knows
  that telling stories is a powerful way to communicate a vision.
  On another level, though, I'm afraid that I'm advising you to
  engage in public relations.  This kind of structured collecting
  and retelling of stories is much of what PR is about, and
  numerous people are paid all day long precisely to tell stories
  whose purported lessons do not necessarily accord with your
  values.  PR has a poor reputation and sometimes this reputation
  is deserved.  But in my view, a revival of democracy is going to
  require citizens to reappropriate the tools of public relations
  -- of consciously structured story-telling -- for democratic
  ends.  The goal of these stories is to provide people with a
  certain kind of opening -- an intelligible, attractive path into
  the community activities of computer networking, thereby making
  shared involvements with technology the basis for recognizing
  shared interests of a deeper and wider sort.


  This month's recommendations.

  Cultural Survival Quarterly.  CSQ is produced by an international
  human organization called Cultural Survival (46 Brattle Street,
  Cambridge MA 02138, USA, +1 (617) 621-3818, fax 621-3814, net
  cultsurv@igc.org) that works for the survival of tribal cultures
  around the world.  The articles in CSQ are mostly written by
  anthropologists with long, deep, and sympathetic experience
  with the people in question, and they usually provide much more
  context than articles in the mainstream press.  The Summer/Fall
  1994 issue is a double issue on ethnic conflict, with articles on
  Rwanda, South Africa, the Balkans, Indonesia, Mexico, and Quebec,
  plus several articles on the former Soviet Union.  Subscriptions
  are not cheap, $45 a year, but I believe that much of that goes
  to running the larger non-profit organization.  CSQ is available
  on many newsstands as well; the cover price on my copy of the
  Summer/Fall issue is $5.

  Robert Jackall, Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers, New
  York: Oxford University Press, 1988.  A merciless ethnography of
  the moral lives of corporate managers.  Having interviewed and
  observed numerous managers, Jackall describes the thoroughgoing
  orientation to expediency that these managers treated as
  necessary to get ahead in the corporate world.  Faced with
  continually shifting politics and intractable ambiguity, managers
  learn to manipulate symbols, commit little of consequence to
  writing, claim credit while avoiding blame, and generally to
  find a way of becoming "comfortable" with doing what's expedient.
  Even if you don't agree with his bleak conclusions, his numerous
  stories will help you develop serious antennae for the ethical
  conflicts that routinely arise in organizational settings.

  Bennett Harrison, Lean and Mean: The Changing Landscape of
  Corporate Power in the Age of Flexibility, New York: Basic
  Books, 1994.  A terrific guide to the meaning of "flexibility" in
  the global economy.  Computer networks and other means of global
  coordination are not weakening the largest firms.  Quite the
  contrary, those firms which can best coordinate their activities
  on a global scale can shift costs and risks to their suppliers
  by making them compete with one another.  This is great if you're
  on the buying end, and not so great if you're on the selling
  end.  Harrison has a definite thesis and point of view, but he is
  also admirably clear about the difficulties of deriving reliable
  conclusions from the available data, and he discusses several
  competing theories in generous detail.

  Jean-Christophe Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater
  in Anglo-American Thought, 1550-1750, Cambridge: Cambridge
  University Press, 1986.  A book of breathtaking smartness and
  moderately serious difficulty about the interplay of ideas on
  the market and the theater in the revolutionary "long century".
  The connection is one of artifice: as the market broadens
  its reach into the web of relationships that make up society,
  concern grows about the creation of appearances -- the "show"
  or "act" that goes into selling things and especially into
  (as they say in our own century) selling oneself.  As people
  struggled to understand this phenomenon, they eagerly read a
  whole series of manuals that claimed to taxonomize personality
  types and to reveal the methods by which the ambitious cultivated
  personalities that would provide them with maximum advantage in
  particular social settings.  The theater provided a ready stock
  of metaphors for this process, and these metaphors yoked together
  the respective fates of the theater and the market in English
  culture.  Despite its title, the book is mostly about England,
  with some notes about the American situation toward the end.


  Company of the month.

  This month's company is:

  E-Lab Incorporated
  213 West Institute Place, Suite 509
  Chicago, Illinois  60610

  phone: (312) 640-4450
    fax: (312) 640-4455

  There's a whole world out there of qualitative market research:
  small consulting firms whose speciality is interacting in some
  structured way with a company's current or prospective customers
  and producing a report about how the company should redesign its
  products and services.  Many if not most of these companies use
  focus groups and the like, where people are brought in from their
  ordinary lives into special settings where they are presented
  with concepts and prototypes of new products or services and
  asked to discuss them.  For an amusing sociological study of this
  world, you might wish to consult the second half of the following
  book chapter:

    Bernice Martin, Symbolic knowledge and market forces at the
    frontiers of postmodernism: Qualitative market researchers,
    in Hansfried Kellner and Frank W. Heuberger, Modernizing work:
    New Frontiers in Business Consulting, in Hansfried Kellner
    and Frank W. Heuberger, eds, Hidden Technocrats: The New Class
    and the New Capitalism, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1992.

  Some companies are more creative than the others, going out in
  various ways to where people live.  E-Lab (officially spelled
  with a bullet instead of a dash between the E and L) is one of
  these.  They conduct videotape-based studies of people in their
  habitual settings using a wide variety of products and services,
  from fast food to robots to advertising.  Having collected a
  batch of videotape in the field, they bring it back to the lab
  and study it in great detail, analyzing and annotating it on
  computer-based video processing systems.  I'll bet that this
  kind of analysis really can be useful to the company's clients.

  This type of research obviously brings both promise and worry.
  It sure would be nice if all kinds of things were designed with
  a fuller understanding of the ways they're actually used: cars,
  telephones, kitchen implements, laptop computers, newspapers,
  and grocery stores come to mind.  At the same time, it concerns
  me to imagine our daily lives colonized in such fine detail
  by the market's relentless logic of rationalization.  The result
  is an incredibly detailed symbiosis, with a whole elaborate
  ecology of commodities fitting us all like gloves, their shapes
  working together gently and subtly to guide us into average,
  typical ways of doing things.

  Anyway, you might wish to learn more about E-Labs.  From what
  I know of them they're nice people, so please don't harass them.
  Only request their literature if you'd actually like to read it.



  Response was overwhelmingly negative to my speculations about the
  rise of a distinct Internet lingua franca, a version of English
  with more net jargon and less local slang.  Many argued that
  removing local slang makes a language bland and unexpressive.
  I think they're wrong; the expressiveness of language is not
  built upon the colorfulness of individual words but rather
  upon the way words are combined -- literally, upon composition.
  Others were worried in a vague way about the language police.
  I find these days that it's hard to express any sort of moral
  preference (at least, any moral preference not shared by the
  Right) without someone warning against a return to Stalinism.
  Be that as it may, I continue to think that it's reasonable to
  take a little care to avoid expressions that your readers may not
  be able to understand.  The best counterproposal was due to Arun
  Mehta , who suggested the creation of a net
  mailing list where people whose first language is not English
  can get expressions defined for them.  No doubt many linguists
  and others who like the English language would be interested in
  answering such queries.

  Have a look at the interesting special issues being planned by
  the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC).  Their URL
  is  http://www.huji.ac.il/www_jcmc/announce.html

  The Netherlands now has a very interesting organization working
  for digital democracy and telecommunications freedom.  They're
  called Digitale Burgerbeweging Nederland and their home page
  (which has much worthwhile material in Dutch and English) is:

  Mitch Kapor's home page has a bunch of interesting links on it:

  A commercial Internet marketing company called "The Tenagra
  Corporation" issued what it called the "5 Top Internet Marketing
  Successes of 1994" on a WorldWide Web page whose URL is:


  The first prize went to Pizza Hut.  I wish I could quote their
  explanation of *why* Pizza Hut got the prize, but it really
  should be savored in its entirety.  So aim your own web client
  at that URL and read the first two paragraphs.  The executive
  summary is that Pizza Hut didn't get the prize for providing a
  useful or interesting service, or even a service that anyone was
  likely to use, but simply for generating lots and lots of media
  publicity for their use of the web, thus assisting with their
  positioning of themselves as "with it" and "a 1990's company".

  Phil Agre, editor                                pagre@ucla.edu
  Department of Information Studies
  University of California, Los Angeles         +1 (310) 825-7154
  Los Angeles, California  90095-1520                FAX 206-4460
  Copyright 1994 by the editor.  You may forward this issue of The
  Network Observer electronically to anyone for any non-commercial
  purpose.  Comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

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